The Last Slice: A Three Kings Day Treat

Little, Brown. Dec. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316436298.
K-Gr 3–This picture book illustrates the Three Kings Day traditions of Marta’s family. Told in the third person, the story opens with a montage of photos of graduation, marriage, and family. Offset among the family photos is a miniature nativity scene with the three kings, Joseph and Mary, the angel, and the baby Jesus. This scene establishes the connection between Three Kings Day and Christmas. Like so many family gatherings during the holidays, the celebration is set in the kitchen where the Rosca de Reyes, traditional sweet bread, sits on the counter and tantalizes the family members. But Marta is filled with dread. Her family bakes the Rosca with a miniature baby inside the dough. As slices are handed out, everyone waits to see which family member gets the baby, and thus the culinary responsibility of making next year’s Christmas tamales. Marta’s worry is not about the responsibility of cooking, but rather about swallowing the baby. In her mind’s eye, she plays out what happens to her if she does. Will it be like a seed from which weeds grow out of her ears and nostrils? Illustrations capture her worry and humorously contrast the image with her grandpa’s hairy ears and nostrils. As Abuela sits on the couch and explains that the three Kings searched mountains and deserts to find the baby Jesus, illustrations feature a king pointing to the Star of Bethlehem. Back matter includes more information about Three Kings Day and la Rosca de Reyes.
VERDICT A picture book that weaves together culture, culinary traditions, and Biblical storytelling.

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